Day 273: The Lord's Work
Nehemiah 3:1-32 The rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall and its various gates was a collaborative effort among many concerned people, including some non-Jews.
Zechariah 14:1-5 The day of restoration would follow a battle between Israel and its enemies, with God and his angels coming to the rescue. These images are used also in the New Testament to describe the end of the world.
Ch 14:6-11 All of creation will be redeemed by God and, therefore, will accommodate better the needs of every human person. The light, which dispels darkness, and the living water, which symbolizes life, will be ever-present and accessible to all.
Ch 14:8 The fountain is an image of cleansing and purification. The proper response to God’s love and desire to forgive unconditionally is a motive for repentance and interior reform. Cleansing water is a type of the Sacrament of Baptism by which Original Sin and actual sins are washed away. Since water is intimately linked to new life, it is a sign of Baptism, which cleanses the soul from sin. Baptism also signifies a rebirth into the life of Christ. The Holy Spirit himself is the “living water” that brings about personal holiness and eternal life. (CCC 694)
Ch 14:12-21 Part of the purpose of prophetic literature is to render instruction and hope to its audience. Despite all the hardships, these prophecies assured Judah and Israel that they would be restored and glorified. These great promises made to the Chosen People were fulfilled with the advent of Christ and the foundation of his Church.
Proverbs 20:24 Prayerful petition for light, a well-informed conscience, and decision-making in the presence of God are effective ways of knowing God’s will. “With the light of reason, human beings can know which path to take, but they can follow that path to its end, quickly and unhindered, only if with a rightly tuned spirit they search for it within the horizon of faith,” wrote St. John Paul II (Fides et Ratio, 16). (CCC 159)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem in the year 444 BC, more than one hundred years after Nebuchadnezzar razed the city.
The Temple has been rebuilt and the people, led by Ezra, have begun reforming their lives according to the Torah.
Upon his arrival, Nehemiah believes it is his mission to rebuild another crucial dimension of the people’s identity-the city’s walls and gates that have been destroyed and burned by fire.
In ancient times, walls protected a city from trespassers and invaders, thus securing peace of mind and stability of life for those who lived within.
They also gave definition and identity to the city and its inhabitants.
The deteriorated walls and gates meant that, as yet, there was a blur between “Jerusalem” and “not Jerusalem”-an ambiguity that carried over into Jewish identity, for whom the Holy City was the center of history, the home of the kings, and the throne of the Great King.
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)
Key Event 52: Nehemiah Returns and Rebuilds Jerusalem Walls (Nehemiah 3:1-4:23)
Nehemiah's governorship marks a third important development after the Jewish return from exile: In addition to Zerubbabel rebuilding the Temple and Ezra restoring reverence for the Torah, Nehemiah rebuilds the walls of Jerusalem, providing security for the returnees.
And today we reach the conclusion of The Book of Zechariah
There is this promise and we are going to hear these promises and prophecies
Zechariah Ch 14 is The Day of the Lord is Coming
ON THAT DAY OF THE LORD
AFTER THE JUDGMENT HAS BEEN PRONOUNCED
AFTER JUSTICE HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED
AFTER PEACE HAS BEEN RESTORED
GOD WILL REDEEM THE EARTH
GOD REDEEMS HEAVEN
We are going to see that more and more when we get to the New Testament in The Book of Revelation
We have a little teaser here in Zechariah 14:6, “On that day there shall be neither cold nor frost. And there shall be continuous day.” (Fr. Mike said Chapter 24, but come on you know what he meant 😉)
In The Book of Revelation it talks about how it will be NOT NIGHT
There won’t be light from the sun or moon because THE LORD GOD HIMSELF WILL BE THE LIGHT
There is this TRUTH in this promise
GOD WILL RESTORE ALL THINGS!!
Judgment is brought
Those who have been under the heel of others will be vindicated
Those who have crushed others underneath their heel shall be judged
ALL OF OUR DEEDS SHALL BE KNOWN
ALL OF OUR DEEDS SHALL BE EXPOSED
In so many ways, the prophecy is that we get what we deserve
We ultimately know that in Christ we DO NOT GET WHAT WE DESERVE
Jesus Christ took WHAT WE DESERVED upon himself
He took on that DEATH that we deserved
He took on that BLAME that we deserved
He took on that SHAME that we deserved
He took on the SIN that we have committed on himself
SO THAT YOU AND I DO NOT GET WHAT WE DESERVE
WHICH IS INCREDIBLE TO REMEMBER!!
As we get closer and closer with each passing day to all that we will be proclaiming in a few weeks is THE NEW TESTAMENT
Jesus Christ, God Himself, CAME INTO THE WORLD
SUFFERING FOR US
DYING FOR US
RISING FOR US
SAVING OUR LIVES
MAKING IT POSSIBLE FOR US TO HAVE NEW LIFE
GIVING HIS HOLY SPIRIT SO THAT WE CAN LIVE THIS NEW LIFE
As we get closer and closer to this, it is worth it to STOP
And recognize HOW INCREDIBLE THAT IS!!
HOW BONKERS IN SO MANY WAYS IT IS!!
What we may have become familiar with IS NOT ORDINARY
IT IS NOT COMMON
IT IS NOT MEH
IT IS NOT HO HUM
IT IS SOMETHING REMARKABLE!!
Zechariah 14:20, “And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, ‘Holy to the Lord.’ And the pots in the house of the Lord shall be as the bowls before the altar; and every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be sacred to the Lord of hosts…”
The bells of the horses will be DEDICATED TO THE LORD
Those things that are holy will be EVEN HOLIER
What is ordinary will become SACRED
IT IS REALLY REMARKABLE
What is not holy at all will become HOLY
This is what God has done for us in making us his own
HE HAS CONSECRATED US
HE HAS SET US APART
HE HAS MADE US HOLY
SO WE ARE CALLED, OBVIOUSLY, TO LIVE THAT HOLINESS
Now onward to Nehemiah
You may have been incredibly bored reading it
You might have said, “I thought that we were done with the names! Why did you go back to the names?!”
It reveals SO MUCH
Nehemiah is the one who rebuilds the walls, but he is NOT the one who rebuilds the walls
For one thing, God’s hand is upon him
Also, Nehemiah Ch 3 talks about all of the teamwork that had to go on to make the dream work
Without all of these families, the work would not have been done
The work was done in just over 50 days of rebuilding the walls around the city of Jerusalem
Even with opposition going on
These people all picked up and built in unique ways
A.) We need to pay attention because this is God’s Word
B.) Nehemiah didn’t do it on his own, he had a lot of help
C.) People did it differently
For example, Nehemiah 3:1, “Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors; they consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel.”
Not only did they build the Sheep Gate
Not only did they lead the way...here are the high priest and the priests who began building
There is this saying in Seminary that the rector said, “If I ever hear you say these words, you are out of here.”
The words were, “These hands were made for chalices, not callouses.”
The rector said they would be done and gone if they didn’t put in the work
Whenever there was work that needed to be done, they needed to be the people willing to do it
So Eliashib and his brother priests were the first ones to take up tools to build walls and gates
And they do it immediately
Not only did they build the gates, they CONSECRATED IT
Why would they do that?
Not because the Sheep Gate was a holy gate, although it was after they consecrated it
They consecrated it because they realized, “Yes, all we are doing right now is building a gate. All we are doing right now is rebuilding the walls. But this rebuilding of the gate and walls is a HOLY WORK. It is DEDICATED TO GOD. It is what GOD WANTS.”
Here’s the thing…
Whenever you and I are doing WORK
It doesn’t matter if that work is connected to church
It doesn’t matter if that work is connected to the Lord
It doesn’t matter if that work is connected to service of some kind
EVERY WORK YOU AND I DO…
If we realize that we are CALLED TO THIS
Like how Nehemiah was CALLED to this
He did not just have an idea, “I am going to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.”
The Lord had PLANTED THAT IN HIS HEART
When you and I are called to do ANY WORK
Picking up garbage
IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT THE WORK IS
ANY WORK YOU AND I ARE CALLED TO IS THE LORD’S WORK
BECAUSE HE HAS CALLED YOU TO IT
So that means EVERY DAY can be consecrated
EVERYTHING THAT YOU DO can be consecrated
So that’s what the high priest Eliashib and his brother priests do
They build the Sheep Gate and they consecrate it
WHICH IS AMAZING!!
Then it goes on to say how other families built and kept moving
Here’s an interesting thing
It talks about the people from Tekoah, the Tekoites
Nehemiah 3:5, “And next to them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles did not put their necks to the work of the Lord.”
We will hear about them later as well
They didn’t build just this one section
They built a couple of sections around the walls of Jerusalem
They were hard workers
But their nobles did not put their necks to the work of the Lord
We have to ask the question, “Is there any work that I think is beneath me?”
Because if we think that there is, then in that we are WRONG
There is no such thing as WORK THAT IS BENEATH US
NO SUCH THING!!
EVERY WORK CAN BE A PARTICIPATION IN THE WORK OF GOD
Remember in Genesis Chs 1 and 2, what does God do?
Which means that GOD WORKS
Because of that, human beings made in God’s image and likeness, there is NO SUCH THING as work that is beneath us
EVERY ASPECT OF WORK
EVERY KIND OF WORK
When you do it, as a human being made in God’s image in likeness, by the very fact that you are doing it, you make it in some ways DIVINE
You make it in some ways this unique participation in the very work of God
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS WORK THAT IS BENEATH US AT ALL EVER
Nehemiah 3:12, “Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters.”
Maybe he didn’t have any sons because everyone else had them and their sons
We have Shallum and his daughters repairing things
It goes on to say that there are many people that repaired the gate OPPOSITE THEIR HOUSE
And the next person repaired the gate OPPOSITE THEIR HOUSE
And you wonder as they go from house to house and ask, “Why was that specific? Why was that mentioned that they repaired the gate that was opposite their house?”
This can be seen one of two ways
Both can possibly be legitimate
1.) They looked across and saw the wall opposite their house and said, “Well this is my section. Because this is the one I see. This is where I’m at.”
We ask the Lord to help us to bring his light and his truth into our little section of the world
So it could have been that they saw where God had planted them and that is what they were responsible for
“I’m responsible for my house. I’m not responsible, necessarily, for anyone else’s house. I’m responsible for my life and my family. I’m not responsible for anyone else’s life or anyone else’s family, in a certain sense. So I’ll just repair the wall next to my house.”
That could be the thing
It could be out of a sense of humility
It could be that it just makes sense
ON THE OTHER HAND…
2.) Bible commentators talk about how that was a sign of LITTLENESS
Another fancy word for it is PUSILLANIMITY, which means being SMALL OF HEART
You have all these people and their families rebuilding sections of the wall that had maybe no connection to them
There were others who were only rebuilding the wall that would help THEM
THAT SMALLNESS OF HEART
Shows a LACK OF GENEROSITY
Shows a LACK OF MAGNANIMITY
Shows a LACK OF LOVE FOR OTHERS who might not be able to build a section opposite their own houses
Now whichever interpretation that you have, there is a lesson there
The thing we need to look at is not just, “What about those people way back then who rebuilt the wall opposite their own houses? But what about myself? When is it in my life? When is there time to say, ‘Actually this is the part, the small place in the world that the Lord God has planted me so that is the part I’m responsible for. I don’t have to worry about other places. I mean, I can be concerned. I can be interested. But, in those other areas I might not have influence so I’m going to spend my energy where I can make things better.”
That makes sense
We can also look at these scenes and say, “That’s being small. Maybe the Lord God is calling me not only to take care of my own garden, but also to help my neighbor in their garden. Maybe I’m not only called to plow my own driveway. Maybe I’m called to plow the driveway of my neighbor because they can’t get out.”
You know what I’m saying?
It’s not necessarily an ABSOLUTE rule
It is something to reflect on
In some cases, repair the wall opposite your own house
Take care of your own house
And in other cases, look up from yourself
Look up from this part of the world and maybe God is calling you to help not just yourself, but the people around you
Does that make sense?
I don’t know when that case is
I just know that when we get there that’s when we have to ask the Lord, “God, is this the time for me to look up and take care of others? Or is this the time for me you’re just saying, ‘Nope. Make sure that this little corner of the world that I’ve planted you in is made better.’”
BUT WE DO NOT KNOW THAT AUTOMATICALLY!!
SO WE NEED GOD’S GRACE
WE NEED GOD’S INSIGHT
WE NEED GOD’S WISDOM
WE NEED GOD’S GUIDANCE
SO WE PRAY
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU!!
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and glory. We thank you. We thank you for your goodness. We thank you for your love for us. We thank you for this call that we all have to participate in the building up of your Kingdom, the call that you have given to each of us in our little corners of the world, our big corners of the world, our space in this world, it’s your world, and you’ve placed us where we are, the plot of land that we’re in, the corner that we’re in to make it beautiful for you, to make it good for you, to bring your presence there because your presence is with us because you have made us temples of your Holy Spirit. Help us also to be agents of your Holy Spirit. Help us always to be agents of your will. Help us always to be sons and daughters who bring your light and your love, your hope and your mercy, your truth, your justice, your compassion, your courage, your voice, into our corners of the world, that your voice may be heard and that your justice may be accomplished, that your truth may be proclaimed, that your mercy may be found. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”